A More Effective All-School Meeting

An Andover week can often feel like a commuter train, carrying us between the organized chaos of the school and the transient freedom of the weekend. We bolt from class to class, often too tired to notice changes in the scenery around us as we await a hiatus from the uncontrollable hurtling of the train car on the Big Blue Line. All-School Meeting represents a rare universal train stop, a moment in which the entire community, faculty and students alike, comes together to consider the remarks of a speaker, celebrate students’ talents and reflect on varying world views.

Yet, too often, ASM simply becomes another nondescript stop on the tracks. We speed through speaker after speaker until each one blends into the next. At this Wednesday’s ASM, Greg Epstein, Humanist Chaplain at Harvard, opened his remarks by saying that he would not have enough time to address all of the arguments of his Kaleidoscope counterpart, Ross Douthat. And so we passed the next 20 minutes on an express train of thought, often unable to fully process the points Epstein raised, let alone compare his remarks to those of Douthat.

ASM has the potential to provide a different kind of teaching moment, an opportunity to learn from the perspectives of visiting speakers or fellow students and use those perspectives to evaluate our beliefs. Yet is a brief 20 minutes really enough time to consider the role of religion in our world? Speaker series like Kaleidoscope offer riders of the Andover train an opportunity to visit different stations on the way to the same destination: a new opinion, but the time and distance between the two backdrops makes accurate comparison difficult, if not impossible. As Carlos Hoyt, Coordinator of All-School Meeting, noted last week, time constraints made it impossible to host and hear both Kaleidoscope speakers during the same ASM. As a result, the two speakers felt like two separate journeys: the scenery remained, but so much time had passed that first train ride was nothing but a distant memory.

If only these two distant platforms could be occupied at once. Perhaps they must merge into the same stop.

Wednesday scheduling offers Andover the ability to make this alteration. Doubling the length of ASM, for example, and making up missed class time into the next week’s ASM period would allow students to hear the arguments of both speakers and evaluate each in relation to the other, rather than individually. Perceptions of speakers who address the same issue could be evaluated immediately, instead of decaying over time. Reshuffling of the 30 minute portions of 2nd and 7th periods would provide enough time to extend ASM to meet the needs of two speakers and a Q&A session in the Chapel.

While altering the future course of a moving train requires painstaking effort, the benefits outweigh the any negative impact. Although changes in service might at first peeve riders on the Big Blue line, providing a more fitting amount of time for speaker programs like Kaleidoscope will confirm the school’s commitment to a balanced worldview and will prove to be more effective. All that separates the train from its destination is a new set of tracks.

This Editorial represents the views of The Phillipian Editorial Board CXXXIV.